1998 Major League Baseball home run record chase

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The 1998 Major League Baseball home run chase in Major League Baseball was the race between first baseman Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals and right fielder Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs that resulted in both players breaking Roger Maris's long-standing and highly coveted record of 61 home runs. McGwire broke Maris's record on September 8 against the Cubs and finished with 70 home runs. Sosa finished with 66.

Several players had come close to breaking Maris's record in the years before 1998. Before the 1994 season was cut short by a labor dispute, Matt Williams of the San Francisco Giants and Ken Griffey, Jr. of the Seattle Mariners were both on a pace which threatened Maris's record: they hit 43 and 40 home runs respectively in a season which was shortened by approximately 50 of the scheduled 162 games.

In 1995, Albert Belle became the first player since Cecil Fielder in 1990 to hit 50 home runs in a season.[1] Belle was only the 4th player in the previous three decades to reach the 50 home run- milestone (George Foster hit 52 in 1977, following Willie Mays in 1965).

In 1996, Brady Anderson of the Baltimore Orioles hit 50 home runs, twice the number he hit during any other season.[2] Of more note was Mark McGwire of the Oakland Athletics, who first drew attention by hitting a league-leading 52 home runs that season while only playing in 130 games.[3] The 1997 home run chase featured McGwire against Ken Griffey, Jr. of the Seattle Mariners. It was during that season that full-fledged interest over the record kicked in as both players were on record pace well into the summer.[4][5] McGwire finished with 58 home runs following his mid-season trade to the St. Louis Cardinals, besting Griffey's total of 56.

Breaking the record[edit]

Speculation on the potential of McGwire or Griffey breaking Roger Maris' home run record was a popular story heading into spring training, and was even promoted by MLB itself, in an effort to draw fans back to the game who felt disenfranchised by the 1994 strike and cancellation of the World Series. With the spotlight still on Griffey and McGwire (entering his first full season as a Cardinal), the latter opened the 1998 season by hitting home runs in each of his first four games. McGwire would ultimately find himself ahead of record pace for all but two games of the season; his pace hit a low of 58.9 on May 7 following a five-game drought. After hitting 16 home runs in May (only two short of Rudy York's ill-fated record of 18 home runs in August 1937[6]), McGwire led the league with 27 home runs, ahead of Griffey's 19 and on pace for more than 80.[7][8]

June, however, would be Sosa's month to catch up. His 13 home runs entering the month represented less than half of rival McGwire's total. Sosa had his first of four multi-home run games that month on June 1, and went on to break Rudy York's record with 20 home runs in the month of June,[9] a record that still stands. By the end of his historic month, the outfielder's 33 home runs tied him with Griffey and left him only four behind McGwire's 37.[10]

The three remained competitive entering August, a period which saw McGwire go on a season-high eight-game home run drought. After hitting a home run on August 8, McGwire's lead had dwindled to two, his 46 home runs just above Sosa's 44 and Griffey's 41. His relative lull in production continued, hitting only three home runs over the next ten days. His pace at the end of August 18, 61.9 would be his lowest for the rest of the season. On August 19, he returned to form, hitting two home runs and beginning the stretch that would see him hit 23 home runs in his final 39 games. Sosa, meanwhile, had followed up his 20 home runs in June with a combined total of only 22 for July and August. At the end of the month, however, the two sluggers were locked at 55 home runs, putting them on pace for about 65 in total and, for the first time in 37 years, leaving the single-season home run record in imminent jeopardy. They were also each one short of Hack Wilson's National league record. By this point, Griffey's total of 47 home runs left him well behind the pace of his two rivals, indicating that even in the event he could pass Maris's total, it would be unlikely that he would also be able to beat McGwire and Sosa.

McGwire began September with four home runs in his first two games against the Florida Marlins and took back the lead, 59–56. His September 5 home run set the stage for one of baseball's classic moments, as he sat on 60 home runs entering a two-game set against Sosa's Chicago Cubs. On September 7, McGwire hit a Mike Morgan pitch 430 feet to become the first player since 1961 to hit 61 home runs in a season. The next day, September 8, 1998, in a game against Sosa's Cubs and with members of the Maris family in attendance, he hit Steve Trachsel's pitch 341 feet - his shortest home run of the season - just over the left field wall, breaking the record for the most home runs ever hit in a single season. The ball did not even make it to the stands, and the crew member who found it later gave the ball to McGwire. In what was a show of both admiration as well as respect, Mark Grace, the Cubs first baseman shared a half-hug high five as McGwire rounded first, and after he touched home, Sosa charged in from right field and engaged McGwire in a celebratory embrace.

Afterwards, however, McGwire went six consecutive games without a home run, allowing Sosa to tie him again at 62 after hitting four home runs in three games against the Milwaukee Brewers. The two battled back and forth for the lead, and entering the final series of the season on September 25, were tied at 65 home runs. Sosa hit a 462-foot home run off Houston Astros pitcher José Lima for his 66th home run of the season. McGwire, however, while the Cardinals hosted the Montreal Expos, hit five home runs against five different pitchers, setting the record at 70 with a 370-foot home run off Carl Pavano.

Throughout the season, Sosa gave a "V" sign after every home run, dedicating it to the memory of Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray, who died that February.[11]

Aftermath[edit]

The Cardinals, despite McGwire's efforts, finished the season 83–79, 3rd place in the Central and behind division rival Chicago. Chicago finished 90–73, earning them 2nd in the Central and a wild card berth. Sosa finished with a .308 batting average, 66 home runs, and 158 RBI, besting McGwire, who finished with a .299 batting average, 70 home runs, and 147 RBI for the NL MVP award. The Cubs, however, were swept in the first round of the 1998 playoffs by the Atlanta Braves.

In 2001, only three years after McGwire and Sosa finally toppled Maris's record, the mark fell again, this time to San Francisco Giants left fielder Barry Bonds. Bonds broke the record on October 5 against Chan Ho Park of the Los Angeles Dodgers and, two days later, hit his 73rd home run of the season off the Dodgers pitcher Dennis Springer.[12]

The '97 and '98 home run record chases are widely credited by sports analysts as having restored Major League Baseball among its fan base in the preceding years, as many had lost interest and felt betrayed by the strike in 1994, although others contest this.[13]

The embrace, along with the constant praising of one another between McGwire and Sosa was spoofed in the fall of 1998 on Saturday Night Live by Will Ferrell (as McGwire) and Tracy Morgan (as Sosa) who try to one-up praising each other endlessly and then begin to slow-dance.[14]

Steroid controversy[edit]

Bonds' record still stands, though the controversy over possible use of performance-enhancing drugs by McGwire and Sosa gained momentum when Bonds hit his 73 home runs despite having never hit as many as 50 in any other season. In the Congressional Hearing on Steroids, McGwire stated that any answer he gave regarding his alleged steroid use would not be believed by the public at-large anyway. Sosa seemed to not understand the questions.

Bonds has also been linked to steroids. He admitted to taking them, but he claims that he did not know what he was taking was steroids. Bonds and Sosa have been linked to illegal use of steroids in the Mitchell Report and other sources. McGwire has never been named by any official investigation; however, on January 11, 2010, McGwire admitted to Bob Costas of the MLB Network that he did take steroids throughout his career, including during the 1998 season where he broke the record.

Home run log[edit]

The following table outlines home runs that Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa hit during 1998 season.[15][16][17]

Date Batter Distance
(ft)
Hit Against
(Pitcher)
Hit Against
(Team)
McGwire
Total
Sosa
Total
March 31 McGwire 364 Ramón Martínez Los Angeles Dodgers 1 0
April 2 McGwire 368 Frank Lankford Los Angeles Dodgers 2 0
April 3 McGwire 364 Mark Langston San Diego Padres 3 0
April 4 McGwire 419 Don Wengert San Diego Padres 4 0
April 4 Sosa 371 Marc Valdes Montreal Expos 4 1
April 11 Sosa 350 Anthony Telford Montreal Expos 4 2
April 14 McGwire 424 Jeff Suppan Arizona Diamondbacks 5 2
April 14 McGwire 347 Jeff Suppan Arizona Diamondbacks 6 2
April 14 McGwire 462 Barry Manuel Arizona Diamondbacks 7 2
April 15 Sosa 430 Dennis Cook New York Mets 7 3
April 17 McGwire 419 Matt Whiteside Philadelphia Phillies 8 3
April 21 McGwire 437 Trey Moore Montreal Expos 9 3
April 23 Sosa 420 Dan Miceli San Diego Padres 9 4
April 24 Sosa 430 Ismael Valdez Los Angeles Dodgers 9 5
April 25 McGwire 419 Jerry Spradlin Philadelphia Phillies 10 5
April 27 Sosa 434 Joey Hamilton San Diego Padres 10 6
April 30 McGwire 371 Marc Pisciotta Chicago Cubs 11 6
May 1 McGwire 362 Rod Beck Chicago Cubs 12 6
May 3 Sosa 370 Cliff Politte St. Louis Cardinals 12 7
May 8 McGwire 358 Rick Reed New York Mets 13 7
May 12 McGwire 527 Paul Wagner Milwaukee Brewers 14 7
May 14 McGwire 381 Kevin Millwood Atlanta Braves 15 7
May 16 McGwire 545 Liván Hernández Florida Marlins 16 7
May 16 Sosa 441 Scott Sullivan Cincinnati Reds 16 8
May 18 McGwire 478 Jesus Sanchez Florida Marlins 17 8
May 19 McGwire 440 Tyler Green Philadelphia Phillies 18 8
May 19 McGwire 471 Tyler Green Philadelphia Phillies 19 8
May 19 McGwire 451 Wayne Gomes Philadelphia Phillies 20 8
May 22 McGwire 425 Mark Gardner San Francisco Giants 21 8
May 22 Sosa 440 Greg Maddux Atlanta Braves 21 9
May 23 McGwire 366 Rich Rodriguez San Francisco Giants 22 9
May 23 McGwire 477 John Johnstone San Francisco Giants 23 9
May 24 McGwire 397 Robb Nen San Francisco Giants 24 9
May 25 McGwire 433 John Thomson Colorado Rockies 25 9
May 25 Sosa 410 Kevin Millwood Atlanta Braves 25 10
May 25 Sosa 420 Mike Cather Atlanta Braves 25 11
May 27 Sosa 460 Darrin Winston Philadelphia Phillies 25 12
May 27 Sosa 400 Wayne Gomes Philadelphia Phillies 25 13
May 29 McGwire 388 Dan Miceli San Diego Padres 26 13
May 30 McGwire 423 Andy Ashby San Diego Padres 27 13
June 1 Sosa 430 Ryan Dempster Florida Marlins 27 14
June 1 Sosa 410 Oscar Henriquez Florida Marlins 27 15
June 3 Sosa 370 Liván Hernández Florida Marlins 27 16
June 5 McGwire 409 Orel Hershiser San Francisco Giants 28 16
June 5 Sosa 370 Jim Parque Chicago White Sox 28 17
June 6 Sosa 410 Carlos Castillo Chicago White Sox 28 18
June 7 Sosa 380 James Baldwin Chicago White Sox 28 19
June 8 McGwire 356 Jason Bere Chicago White Sox 29 19
June 8 Sosa 340 LaTroy Hawkins Minnesota Twins 29 20
June 10 McGwire 409 Jim Parque Chicago White Sox 30 20
June 12 McGwire 438 Andy Benes Arizona Diamondbacks 31 20
June 13 Sosa 410 Mark Portugal Philadelphia Phillies 31 21
June 15 Sosa 420 Cal Eldred Milwaukee Brewers 31 22
June 15 Sosa 410 Cal Eldred Milwaukee Brewers 31 23
June 15 Sosa 415 Cal Eldred Milwaukee Brewers 31 24
June 17 McGwire 437 José Lima Houston Astros 32 24
June 17 Sosa 430 Bronswell Patrick Milwaukee Brewers 32 25
June 18 McGwire 449 Shane Reynolds Houston Astros 33 25
June 19 Sosa 380 Carlton Loewer Philadelphia Phillies 33 26
June 19 Sosa 380 Carlton Loewer Philadelphia Phillies 33 27
June 20 Sosa 366 Matt Beech Philadelphia Phillies 33 28
June 20 Sosa 500 Toby Borland Philadelphia Phillies 33 29
June 21 Sosa 380 Tyler Green Philadelphia Phillies 33 30
June 24 McGwire 433 Jaret Wright Cleveland Indians 34 30
June 24 Sosa 390 Seth Greisinger Detroit Tigers 34 31
June 25 McGwire 461 Dave Burba Cleveland Indians 35 31
June 25 Sosa 400 Brian Moehler Detroit Tigers 35 32
June 27 McGwire 431 Mike Trombley Minnesota Twins 36 32
June 30 McGwire 472 Glendon Rusch Kansas City Royals 37 32
June 30 Sosa 364 Alan Embree Arizona Diamondbacks 37 33
July 9 Sosa 432 Jeff Juden Milwaukee Brewers 37 34
July 10 Sosa 428 Scott Karl Milwaukee Brewers 37 35
July 11 McGwire 485 Billy Wagner Houston Astros 38 35
July 12 McGwire 405 Sean Bergman Houston Astros 39 35
July 12 McGwire 415 Scott Elarton Houston Astros 40 35
July 17 McGwire 511 Brian Bohanon Los Angeles Dodgers 41 35
July 17 McGwire 425 Antonio Osuna Los Angeles Dodgers 42 35
July 17 Sosa 440 Kirt Ojala Florida Marlins 42 36
July 20 McGwire 452 Brian Boehringer San Diego Padres 43 36
July 22 Sosa 365 Miguel Batista Montreal Expos 43 37
July 26 McGwire 452 John Thomson Colorado Rockies 44 37
July 26 Sosa 420 Rick Reed New York Mets 44 38
July 27 Sosa 347 Willie Blair Arizona Diamondbacks 44 39
July 27 Sosa 438 Alan Embree Arizona Diamondbacks 44 40
July 28 McGwire 408 Mike Myers Milwaukee Brewers 45 40
July 28 Sosa 390 Bob Wolcott Arizona Diamondbacks 45 41
July 31 Sosa 375 Jamey Wright Colorado Rockies 45 42
August 5 Sosa 374 Andy Benes Arizona Diamondbacks 45 43
August 8 McGwire 374 Mark Clark Chicago Cubs 46 43
August 8 Sosa 400 Rich Croushore St. Louis Cardinals 46 44
August 10 Sosa 361 Russ Ortiz San Francisco Giants 46 45
August 10 Sosa 480 Chris Brock San Francisco Giants 46 46
August 11 McGwire 464 Bobby Jones New York Mets 47 46
August 16 Sosa 360 Sean Bergman Houston Astros 47 47
August 19 Sosa 368 Kent Bottenfield St. Louis Cardinals 47 48
August 19 McGwire 398 Matt Karchner Chicago Cubs 48 48
August 19 McGwire 409 Terry Mulholland Chicago Cubs 49 48
August 20 McGwire 369 Willie Blair New York Mets 50 48
August 20 McGwire 393 Rick Reed New York Mets 51 48
August 21 Sosa 430 Orel Hershiser San Francisco Giants 51 49
August 22 McGwire 477 Francisco Córdova Pittsburgh Pirates 52 49
August 23 McGwire 393 Ricardo Rincón Pittsburgh Pirates 53 49
August 23 Sosa 440 José Lima Houston Astros 53 50
August 23 Sosa 380 José Lima Houston Astros 53 51
August 26 McGwire 509 Justin Speier Florida Marlins 54 51
August 26 Sosa 438 Brett Tomko Cincinnati Reds 54 52
August 28 Sosa 414 John Thomson Colorado Rockies 54 53
August 30 McGwire 501 Dennis Martínez Atlanta Braves 55 53
August 30 Sosa 482 Darryl Kile Colorado Rockies 55 54
August 31 Sosa 364 Brett Tomko Cincinnati Reds 55 55
September 1 McGwire 450 Liván Hernández Florida Marlins 56 55
September 1 McGwire 472 Donn Pall Florida Marlins 57 55
September 2 McGwire 497 Brian Edmondson Florida Marlins 58 55
September 2 McGwire 458 Rob Stanifer Florida Marlins 59 55
September 2 Sosa 363 Jason Bere Cincinnati Reds 59 56
September 4 Sosa 374 Jason Schmidt Pittsburgh Pirates 59 57
September 5 McGwire 381 Dennys Reyes Cincinnati Reds 60 57
September 5 Sosa 417 Sean Lawrence Pittsburgh Pirates 60 58
September 7 McGwire 430 Mike Morgan Chicago Cubs 61 58
September 8 McGwire 341 Steve Trachsel Chicago Cubs 62 58
September 11 Sosa 464 Bill Pulsipher Milwaukee Brewers 62 59
September 12 Sosa 430 Valerio de los Santos Milwaukee Brewers 62 60
September 13 Sosa 480 Bronswell Patrick Milwaukee Brewers 62 61
September 13 Sosa 480 Eric Plunk Milwaukee Brewers 62 62
September 15 McGwire 385 Jason Christiansen Pittsburgh Pirates 63 62
September 16 Sosa 434 Brian Boehringer San Diego Padres 63 63
September 18 McGwire 423 Rafael Roque Milwaukee Brewers 64 63
September 20 McGwire 423 Scott Karl Milwaukee Brewers 65 63
September 23 Sosa 344 Rafael Roque Milwaukee Brewers 65 64
September 23 Sosa 410 Rod Henderson Milwaukee Brewers 65 65
September 25 Sosa 462 José Lima Houston Astros 65 66
September 25 McGwire 375 Shayne Bennett Montreal Expos 66 66
September 26 McGwire 403 Dustin Hermanson Montreal Expos 67 66
September 26 McGwire 435 Kirk Bullinger Montreal Expos 68 66
September 27 McGwire 377 Mike Thurman Montreal Expos 69 66
September 27 McGwire 370 Carl Pavano Montreal Expos 70 66

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Year-by-Year League Leaders & Records for Home Runs". baseball-reference.com. Retrieved August 10, 2007.
  2. ^ "Brady Anderson". baseball-reference.com. Archived from the original on August 18, 2007. Retrieved August 10, 2007.
  3. ^ "Mark McGwire 1996 Batting Gamelogs". baseball-reference.com. Retrieved August 10, 2007.
  4. ^ "Mark McGwire 1997 Batting Gamelogs". Baseball-reference.com. Retrieved August 10, 2007.
  5. ^ "Ken Griffey 1997 Batting Gamelogs". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved August 10, 2007.
  6. ^ "The Month of Rudy York by Lee Panas". Archived from the original on August 27, 2007. Retrieved August 10, 2007.
  7. ^ "Mark McGwire 1998 Batting Gamelogs". Retrieved August 10, 2007.
  8. ^ "Ken Griffey 1998 Batting Gamelogs". Retrieved August 10, 2007.
  9. ^ "Home Run in a Month Records by Baseball Almanac". Archived from the original on August 9, 2007. Retrieved August 10, 2007.
  10. ^ "Sammy Sosa 1998 Batting Gamelogs". Retrieved August 10, 2007.
  11. ^ Dedman, Bill (September 29, 1998). "Unlikely Season Of Dreams For Cubs". The New York Times. p. D3. Since Caray died at the start of spring training, Sosa has honored him with a 'V' sign after every home run this season, along with his heart thumps and kisses for the Sosa family.
  12. ^ "Barry Bonds 73 Home Run Season & Home Run Logs by Baseball Almanac". Retrieved August 10, 2007.
  13. ^ Leonhardt, David (March 30, 2005). "Myth of men who saved baseball". New York Times. Retrieved May 20, 2010.
  14. ^ http://snl.jt.org/imp.php?i=1611
  15. ^ "Mark McGwire's Seventy Home Run Season by Baseball Almanac". Archived from the original on August 17, 2007. Retrieved August 8, 2007.
  16. ^ "Sammy Sosa's 66 Home Run Season by Baseball Almanac". Archived from the original on August 9, 2007. Retrieved August 8, 2007.
  17. ^ "Mark McGwire 1998 Game by Game Batting Logs". Archived from the original on August 23, 2007. Retrieved August 8, 2007.
Bibliography
  • Home run! : the year the records fell. Champaign, Illinois: Sports Publishing. Associated Press. 1998. ISBN 1-58261-026-6.